Better options than gas tax hike

Originally published in the Gazette

Barry Rascovar is right that Maryland lacks leadership on transportation policy (“Can’t keep pushing funding down the road,” Dec. 7), but there are far better solutions than a gas tax increase.

Transportation funds are scarce because state lawmakers raided $1.1 billion from the Transportation Trust Fund to fund non-transportation projects. This has paralyzed local governments’ ability to upgrade and maintain safety on our roads.

Sadly, the O’Malley administration has no obligation to pay this money back and has offered no plan to do so.

Remember Comptroller Peter Franchot’s remarks last year: “If we move forward in this direction with this gas tax increase, it’s going to be for general fund relief, not traffic congestion relief.”

To improve transportation policy, lawmakers should repay local highway dollars so that local governments have the funds they need to improve and maintain roads. We should pursue the Virginia model for public-private partnerships to attract private dollars to invest in infrastructure.

Lastly, lawmakers should order a truly independent performance audit to ensure that public agencies provide the best possible return for taxes the citizens of Maryland already pay.

Christopher B. Summers, Rockville

The letter writer is president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute, based in Rockville